As an intern with C-FAM, I’ve had the opportunity to attend some pretty neat events, from a Statesmen’s Forum with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (on my first day!) to the Congressional hearing on the status of Chen Guangcheng, which I blogged about earlier. The most meaningful event for me, however, has been The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s ceremony and wreath laying. I’m a survivor of communism.
My grandparents fled Lithuania during World War II to escape death at the hands of the Nazi and Soviet armies; my parents devoted much of their professional lives to the resistance movement in America as the Soviet Union held Lithuania and other nations in a stranglehold for forty-five years. While it’s easy to romanticize the bygone Cold War era of spies and international intrigue, Women’s Rights without Frontiers president Reggie Littlejohn’s remarks on forced abortion and the one-child policy in communist China yesterday drove home the reality that communism continues to inflict suffering on innocent lives. She highlighted the recent and brutal forced abortion on a woman seven months pregnant whose dead child was placed on the bed next to her (Warning: the photo below is graphic).
Littlejohn also noted that “the hallmark of communist governments is peacetime killings of their own citizens.” While The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation counts 100 million as the death toll under leaders such as Stalin, Mao, and others, Littlejohn pointed out that there is a hidden category of victims: the 400 million lives destroyed in China under the one-child policy since 1979. She contended that through forced abortion, sterilization, infanticide, and sex-selective abortion, the one-child policy has engendered more violence against women and girls than any other official government policy. Because of the preference for male children, there are currently 37 million more men than women in China. The gross gender imbalance has fueled sex trafficking of women not only in China, but in surrounding Asian countries as well. Finally, China has the highest female suicide rate in the world, and it is the only country in which female suicides outnumber those of males. (For more statistics and their sources, visit the All Girls Allowed website.)
Littlejohn continued that China’s problem isn’t overpopulation, but rather an aging population with too few young people. She believes that the Chinese government is unrelenting in enforcing the one-child policy, however, because it is a form of social control that ensures the Communist Party’s power. She explained that the policy is used as an instrument of fear; because informants paid to report violators are everywhere, people cannot trust each other and thus cannot organize for democratic causes. As another speaker, Annette Lantos of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice commented, in communism there is no room for dissent or compromise; its ideology commands control through fear, intimidation, and indoctrination.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who received the Foundation’s Medal of Freedom, expressed his hope that the U.S. would be “a beacon of light in the world.” Though it’s hard to see America that way when, as the freest society in the world, it has allowed the destruction of 50 million lives since 1973 in the form of legal abortion, there is hope; after all, this is the same country that overcame slavery. A democracy may err grievously, but at least its citizens can trust their government not to violate their rights as they seek to protect the rights of others.
Although I was born after Lithuania’s freedom and sovereignty were restored, my heritage has taught me never to take for granted the basic human freedoms that communism continues to strip away, such as free speech, religious liberty, and most importantly, life—all in the name of an ideology that promises to raise up the common man but instead enables the powerful to tyrannize the masses. Thus, as Littlejohn commented in closing, China’s future is crucial for preventing any more unnecessary human suffering:
Whether China will turn and become a free, democratic nation, or whether China will continue down the path of totalitarian destruction, is the greatest issue of the twenty-first century and has vast implications for our own national security. Supporting democracy in China should be among the highest priorities of the leaders of the free world.
For the past few weeks, U.S. foreign news media has closely monitored the plight of Chen Guancheng, a Chinese human rights activist who is famous internationally for opposing forced abortions in China. Chen escaped house arrest in late April and made his way to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, where he was able to make a deal with the Chinese government to leave the embassy to receive medical treatment. Meanwhile, it appears that his relatives and supporters have faced harassment from Chinese officials. While it is unclear whether Chen opposes abortion in general, his struggle against forced abortions in China should serve as a reminder of the brutality of China’s one-child policy.
China has enforced the one-child policy since 1979 as a response to the government’s inability to address the needs of its massive population. Since many citizens do not comply, forced abortion and sterilization are common, even though those measures are technically illegal. The policy has also created other dilemmas, such as discrimination against female children that has resulted in a gender imbalance and has led to problems such as bride trafficking. Meanwhile, in a recent interview, C-FAM’s Senior Vice President for Research, Dr. Susan Yoshihara, explained the impact of the demographic change the policy is projected to have on China’s growth and strength. She argues that demographic decline in both Asian and Western European nations will cost them economic and political clout in the coming decades. Dr. Yoshihara’s discussion underscores the idea that the need for a culture of life is not for the sake of intangible religious and philosophical principles; on the contrary, society’s moral decisions have practical implications on economic and social well being.
Ideally, Chen’s situation will result in a broader discussion about the one-child policy and the issue of population decline in the developed world.